Hosts do everything to attract new customers. From ‘Free domain name promotions’ and ‘$1 Domain names’ to ‘Free Domain Name for Lifetime’, all those are just a small part of marketing techniques hosting companies use to get new customers. Of course there’s nothing free so you always paid one way or another.
But besides the web hosting services there is a domain market where the battle is even more cruel. The Wall Street Journal today published an article about domain dispute over .NU domain extension.
.NU indicates “Niue”, a tiny South Pacific island near Tonga. Dot-nu is the national internet suffix of this country but it has become very popular in Sweden because “.nu” means “now” in swedish.
A internet entrepreneur Bill Semich, from Massachusetts got .Nu licence in the late 90’s and started exploring it. He thought .nu would be a cheaper alternative to expensive at this time dot-com domains. The american market has not took in the idea of dot-nu domains, however good news came from Sweden where about 110,000 domains has been sold from Mr. Semich’s company called “NU Domain Ltd.”.
Once the domain name business of the american businessman has become profitable the Niue island authorities has opened dispute against the ownership over the domain name. Getting money from exploring exploiting the NU domain is important for the island and its 1200 inhabitants. The local government says that it can raise money from dot-nu selling.
Whos’s Right and Whos’ Wrong
The big questions is should the governments have to receive the right to control their country’s top level domain (TLD) or it is better a private companies to maintain domain under certain regulations?
Mr. Semich who invested more that $100.000 in its dot-nu business has brought the internet to Niue. He made the people from the small island the world’s first nation with free internet access to all citizens by building an wireless network in Niue. He say his company pays voluntary a part of its profit to the local government.
The expression of his interest was at first welcomed by the Niue’s authorities. Now the managing director of the local Telecom says that taking control over the domain name is “a huge issue of national development for us” and insist the Niue must take the ownership over dot-nu from the businessman.
This is typical bureaucratic reaction you can see worldwide. Governments didn’t pay attention on internet and online communications in the 80’s and in the beginning of 90′ and even put obstacles to new internet companies. There are still countries like Cuba, where the possession of computer and the use of internet connection is prohibited.
Now governments realize the importance and the power of the internet and most of them are trying to control it. The niue government claimed in 2003 that Mr. Semich company must be licenced and the telecom minister shut down the internet service that hos company provided to the citizens. The minister Toke Talagi even sent request to ICCAN to transfer the ownership and management of the dot-nu to the island’s government.
The things would went wrong for the US entrepreneur but local people began to miss the internet service. So restoring the internet service has become a big political issue and a part of the election campaign in Niue in late 2003. A few days before election day, the interim prime minister allowed the “NU Domain Ltd.” to reopen the islands wireless network.
People got their free wi-fi. Now the authorities are negotiating with the american businessman to increase the benefits the Niue receives from the domain name.
The story is available on WSJ’s web site. The article’s name is “Catchy Web Name Sparks a Battle“.